John Mattox took a rare day off Friday. He didn't even stop in at the Underground Railroad Museum.
On Saturday, on his way in, he ran into some friends and told them "everything was quiet."
He was wrong.
"As soon as I opened the door, I could smell water," said Mattox, the founder and curator of the museum in Flushing, Ohio.
It apparently started in the second floor men's room, and cascaded down through the ceiling. Even the basement, where he has a "slave cabin" set up, was flooded, hall carpets ruined, murals soaked. And on the first floor, Mattox's office was flooded. His phone, computer and security system were ruined, and now, irreplaceable documents layed scattered on the floor to dry.
"The bills of sale for plantation workers in the South, a record of a prison, very important papers that were donated to the museum on loan," noted Mattox. "We saved those. But then there were other articles - slave narratives and appeals by the legislature--those are the items that got wet."
The main display room, filled with relics and memorabilia, was fortunately spared.
Still, sentimental items like a pillow made by John's late wife, Rozz, were soaked, and he's determined to save it.
He can't start work in earnest until after the insurance claim people arrive.
But after that, he says, he'll need help.
"There's a lot to be done," he said. "But with the help and support of the community, we will bring the museum back to a first class operation."
Anyone who would like to volunteer to lend a hand is urged to call Mattox at 740-968-6113.